What has to happen Monday for an NBA labor deal? A lot.

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Monday in Manhattan, NBA league officials and union leaders will again sit down across the table from each other in a posh hotel and try to hash out a deal — or at least go through the motions of it. If they don’t reach a handshake agreement today the league will cancel the first couple weeks of the NBA regular season.

So, what do the two sides have to do today to reach a deal?

A lot. Like a “make the Miami Dolphins a good football team” size effort. A “clean up corruption in the Mexico police force” kind of effort.

It’s a long shot, but here is what has to happen for the NBA to start.

1. Find a split on basketball related income. This is the elephant in the room and while the two sides met for five hours Sunday apparently this didn’t even come up. Which is ludicrous. The two sides can talk about the salary cap structure and luxury tax levels (apparently topics at the meeting Sunday) but all of that really ties back to BRI. Until the two sides define the pie and how to split the pie up, nothing else matters. Nothing.

When last we left this talk, the owners demanded a 50/50 split. The players got 57 percent of BRI in the last deal and have come down to 53 percent. That’s about $120 million apart on the first year of the deal and close to a billion over the life of the labor contract. Know that 53 percent is where the players are drawing their line in the sand, saying they have not gotten less than 53 percent in nearly three decades.

“We moved down from 57 to 53 (percent) and I think the owners got to work with us….” Kevin Durant said after the Drew/Goodman rematch Sunday night. “We’re going to stand firm no matter what. If we miss games we miss games. We might have to sacrifice a few for the betterment of the league, but I don’t think we’re going to give in just because we missed a few games.”

The NBA owners have already won these negotiations — that give back by the players represents $160 million a season and more than $1 billion over the course of a six-year labor deal — but the owners are now trying to pour it on and win by 50. They are pushing for a bigger cut of the pie and some are willing to miss a lot of games to get it.

2. Figure out revenue sharing by the owners. While this is technically an owners-only issue, it has tentacles into the negotiations. For example, the luxury tax big-spending teams pay is one part of the revenue sharing, so how much that is will impact the other revenue sharing. Zach Lowe has a fantastic post talking about this issue over at Sports Illustrated — revenue sharing and the luxury tax are an stumbling block right now.

This is not just the small market owners trying to get as much money as they can (although they are), this is also big market owners wanting more from the BRI split so the money they pay out in revenue sharing is new money and does not impact their profits.

3. Reach at least some level of understanding on the myriad of other issues in the CBA, such as if there is a mid-level exception, reworking the draft and the age limits on players entering the league. That stuff should fall into line once the money is figured out, but it still has to be in a place they can work it out.

That’s it for today. They can announce a handshake deal and have a joint press conference. Smiles everyone, smiles. Then they have to…

4. Turn the lawyers loose for a couple weeks to flesh out the details that will surround the framework of the deal. This would happen as the lockout ended — teams would open their facilities to players for workouts — but there could be no free agency period and training camps can’t formally open until the deal is finalized and approved.

5. Sell this deal to the owners and players. The hardliners on both sides will think they have given up too much and both David Stern and Billy Hunter will have to sell their constituencies on how this is a good deal. Most people on both sides want to get back to basketball, but there is going to have to be some salesmanship.

So that’s it. Five easy steps to basketball again.

Eight-time All-Star Dwight Howard: “I have a lot left in the tank”

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — At 31 and entering his 14th NBA season, eight-time All-Star Dwight Howard says his best basketball is ahead of him.

Wearing a teal suit with black trim, a smiling Howard insisted Monday he can return to being a dominant center with the Charlotte Hornets, where he will be reunited with coach Steve Clifford and play for one of his childhood heroes, team owner Michael Jordan.

“A lot of people have written me off, which is great because it’s going to make me work even harder,” Howard said during his introductory news conference. “I’m just looking forward to this opportunity because I have a lot left in the tank.”

This will be Howard’s third team in three seasons.

The Atlanta Hawks, his hometown team, traded him to Charlotte one year into a three-year, $74 million contract. Howard said he has no hard feelings, adding that “sometimes things just don’t work out.”

But he’s confident Charlotte is the right fit.

“I think I’m a lot healthier than I have been in the past five years and I think this is going to be my best time,” Howard said. “I’m a lot wiser now, stronger mentally and physically, and I’m in the right place with a great coach, a great GM and the GOAT (greatest of all time). So I think this is the perfect opportunity.”

Much of Howard’s optimism stems from being reunited with Clifford.

They worked together for seven seasons in Orlando and Los Angeles, and the 6-foot-11 three-time Defensive Player of the Year loves Clifford’s defense-first mentality. He’s also confident Clifford will put him in the right situations to succeed on offense.

“He understands me,” Howard said. “… He was always there for me and not once did he turn his back on me or talk bad about me. He was very positive and he was somebody that I have always trusted in.”

The feeling is mutual.

Clifford said he’s never coached a player smarter than Howard when it comes to understanding defensive coverages. While Howard has incredible athletic ability, Clifford said, he’s never been given the credit he deserves for playing a “thinking man’s game.”

“Smart always wins in the NBA,” Clifford said.

Howard is expected to start in Charlotte alongside All-Star point guard Kemba Walker, guard Nic Batum and forwards Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams. Cody Zeller, last year’s starting center, is expected to come off the bench for the Hornets but still see significant minutes.

Howard said he’s learned a lot over the past 13 seasons.

“Over the years a lot of things have been said and I’ve not said anything back,” Howard said. “Somehow things that weren’t true kept getting stirred up, and that gave a lot of people wrong opinions about who I was as a person. I should be the one speaking up for myself instead of allowing other people to do that.”

In Charlotte, Howard becomes the second big-name athlete to be known as “Superman,” joining former NFL MVP quarterback Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers.

Both are from the Atlanta area and have met a couple of times but aren’t close friends. Howard said he’s eager to connect with Newton and get to know him better.

“We have the same attitude; we love to win, but we want to have fun,” Howard said.

 

As expected, Timberwolves waive Jordan Hill

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Last summer, the Minnesota Timberwolves took a $4 million flier on veteran big man Jordan Hill, hoping he could give them some backup minutes behind Karl-Anthony Towns. Didn’t work out that way, he appeared in just 47 minutes across seven games. Cole Aldrich was better (though not great), and so in the draft the Timberwolves took Justin Patton hoping he can give them some minutes next season.

Which means Hill’s time in Minnesota has come to an end.

Hill will be 30 years old next season, but I’m not sure that there’s another NBA contract in his future. If so he may have to earn it through a training camp invite.

Report: Nets, Sixers to try and land J.J. Redick as free agent

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Chris Paul and Blake Griffin get all the headlines as the big Clippers’ big free agents, but there is another Clipper going to get paid this summer:

J.J. Redick.

One of the best snipers in the NBA, he shot 42.9 percent from three last year. However, he’s become much more than just a shooter. No player works harder off the ball to get open than Redick, he’s got enough game to put the ball on the floor and create if he gets closed out on, and he’s a solid team defender. He has remade his body and his game since his days at Duke, and now he’s going to get paid.

Maybe by Brooklyn or Philadephia, reports Kevin O’Conner at The Ringer.

Multiple league sources I’ve spoken to expect the Sixers and Nets to make a hard push at Redick. Were he to go to either of those teams, Redick could receive an opportunity unlike anything he’s had before. He is one of the greatest 3-point shooters in league history, and is coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high six 3-point attempts per game. That’s a lot of triples, but it’s not enough. Even Sixers swingman Robert Covington averaged more last season, at 6.1 per game, and he shot only 33.3 percent. A gunslinger of Redick’s caliber should be averaging about 8.5 treys, in the same range as Klay Thompson or Eric Gordon. Had Redick taken 8.5 3s last season and posted the same 42.9 percent clip, he would’ve averaged 18.2 points per game. Redick could receive those chances with the Sixers or Nets, all while living within close proximity to his home in Brooklyn.

Redick will have options, the question is what does he want? Does he want to be close to home in Brooklyn? Does he want to both help on the court and mentor off it the up-and-coming Sixers? Would he take a little less money, and a couple fewer shots, to chase a ring? Does he want to stay a Clipper?

Redick has earned the right to have options, his skill set could help any team. He may be flying under fans’ radar, but not front office executives. They see Redick’s value. Which is why he will have options come July 1.

Report: Nuggets plan to make free agent run at Blake Griffin, Paul Millsap

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Denver likes its young core. As it should. Nikola Jokic looks like a franchise cornerstone piece at center. Young guards Gary Harris and Jamal Murray are clearly part of the future. Emmanuel Mudiay and Juan Hernangomez may be as well.

What Denver needs most is an upgrade at the four — someone who can defend, rebound, and space the floor. It’s a top off-season priority (and why they came up as a third team in the Kevin Love/Paul George trade talks, but that appears dead now).

Instead, expect the Nuggets to be aggressive on the free agent market. Via Marc Stein and Chris Haynes at ESPN.

Denver, according to sources, hopes to crash the list of suitors for Los Angeles Clippers unrestricted free agent Blake Griffin and Atlanta Hawks unrestricted free agent Paul Millsap.‎

Denver’s interest in Millsap is no secret and they will likely come in with a big offer, and it’s known he’s likely to leave Atlanta this summer. He’d be the perfect fit with his ability to defend other fours (he almost made the NBA All-Defensive Team), he is strong on the glass, and he shot 31.3 percent from three last season (you have to respect him out there). Griffin is more athletic and a better passer than Millsap, but he’s not the same level of defender, and he comes with more injury concerns. He also could stay with the Clippers.

Denver has positioned itself to be a player, a team going after one more big star to position itself not just in the playoffs in the West but as a team fast on the rise. Whether the Nuggets can out-recruit teams for elite players, remains to be seen. Millsap, Griffin and players of that level have options and a lot of teams chasing them.

However, Denver is one confident organization right now.